“Honest, dependable”: Tryon IGA employee in 66th year

Published 12:25 pm Thursday, July 27, 2023

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TRYON—A typical employee stays at a job for just over four years according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tryon IGA’s Donnie Jolley has got that beat by nearly 62 years.

Jolley has worked at the Tryon grocery store for 66 years. And counting.

“I was comfortable here, so I just stayed here,” says Jolley, who handles ordering and stocking in the store’s dairy and freezer sections. “I’ve always enjoyed it, just working, pure work. Even when you’re manager it’s pure work.”

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Jolley’s brother-in-law worked at the A&P grocery store in Black Mountain and helped Jolley get a job there in the summer of 1957. Jolley later got a job at the A&P in downtown Tryon and started work there on December 30, 1957, at age 17. He stayed there for 40 years, working his way up to manager.

In 1997 Willard Teaster bought the store and it became the Tryon IGA, moving to its current location just south of downtown. 

“It’s a different name, but it’s still the same store,” says Jolley.

Jolley co-managed the store with Teaster until 2002 when he turned 62 years old and decided to cut back on his hours and start taking his Social Security. He goes in five days a week working around 20-30 hours.

“I wish I had more like him,” says Teaster. “He’s dependable, honest and these days that’s kind of hard to find. He’s just a great employee, all the way around, and not only is he a good employee, he’s a good person.”

Jolley, who turns 84 in August, says he’s often asked how much longer he’ll work at the Tryon IGA and he gives a fairly predictable answer.

“I guess I’ll work until they carry me out of here,” he says.